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May 25, 1999
New Japanese toilet prime example of entrepreneurship: Professor Sheth
Arthur J Pais in San Jose
Looking for new investment opportunities? How about marketing a toilet?
Not just any toilet but the kind recently invented in Japan, said Professor Jagdish Sheth, one of America's most respected experts on markets and trends.
"You sit on it and it does everything for you," he told the participants at the two-day TiE conference here on Saturday. "The more sophisticated of these toilets also have devices that check the blood sugar and other vital information," he said.
Given the fact people in Japan and America will live in significant numbers beyond 100 years, he said, home appliance geared towards the elderly hold hopes for big profits.
Professor Sheth was one of two keynote speakers at the inaugural session of TiE at the Fairmont Hotel here in the heart of Silicon Valley. The other speaker was Tim Koogle, CEO of Yahoo. The theme of the conference was Entrepreneurship in the Internet Age.
Professor Sheth's speech was one of the best received at the conference, which had 900 attendees -- with over 300 gatecrashers kept away for want of space. The conference drew some of the top Indian Americans in Silicon Valley including Suhas Patil, a founding member of TiE.
Sheth, Kellstadt Professor of Marketing at Emory University's Goizueta Business School, is frequently quoted by the financial and mainstream media in America for his views on marketing trends. While every speaker at the conference spoke about computer and technology industries, he dwelt on products like innovative toilets -- and what they reveal about a potentially multibillion dollar industry in the new millennium.
He believes home-related businesses will have a great boom in the new millennium across the world but particularly in America and Japan. The change in health care in America in particular, with the emphasis on cost cutting, has resulted the elderly being treated in their homes. This has led to the growth of a homebound medical industry, he said, adding that the industry will grow significantly in the next few decades. Telemedicine is another industry that is bound to grow, he said.
With about 58 per cent of women in America working outside their families, and with the number expected to increase to 65 per cent in the year 2,000, Professor Sheth said increasing number of families depended on home aid products that made life easier for them. The childcare business in America has soared from $ 20 billion to $ 30 billion in the past few years, he added. The desire for home service products is bound to grow, he added.
In his own home, he said, the refrigerator has more things outside than inside; the signs outside held by magnetic clips are messages for his wife -- or messages from her, he said, as his listeners roared with laughter. "We are like roommates in a family," he added. It is often the pizza which saved their marriage, he said after the formal speech, chuckling for several minutes.
The steady growth of non-white population in America -- with the predictions that whites will be outnumbered by nonwhites by the year 2020 -- will offer challenging opportunities to those whose translation services at hospitals and courts, he said. And the matchmaking industry will enjoy a boom, too, he said. Those who are Internet savvy will clearly have an advantage, he added.
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